Does life seem to speed up as the years go by? As you grow older, and when you contemplate your mortality and your purpose, you may wonder how much you have shaped your own story, and to what degree you were caught up in forces beyond your control.
How often were you swept into currents that carried you to places you never dreamed of going or did not wish to visit? How often did you find yourself in situations that made you ponder how you got there, and how you might escape?
Many of us look back and wish that we had spent more time doing what we enjoy and less time doing what we felt we had to do. You may have some strong ideas about what you would like to change in your life. However, you may not know how to write a better script for your personal story and live according to this new, preferred narrative. You may feel you are powerless to affect your circumstances.
If you do look back in self-reflection, though, you might discover the themes in your life’s story, choose more empowering ones, and end up with a new, more satisfying story. The circumstances you find yourself in, the experiences you have, and the people you meet change when you take responsibility for the authorship of your own story and consciously step into the role of storyteller.
Once we claim our role as the storyteller, we need to make sure that our new script replaces the previous one rather than sitting on the shelf, unread and unlived. This is where most of us struggle. We think we know what we want to create, but our ideas don’t translate to changes in our experiences, behaviors, and patterns. What is missing is our understanding of how to work with forces that are aspects of Source as a means of informing our new stories and bringing them to life.
What Story Do You Wish to Write?
A woman had come to a major turning point and was reflecting on her story. She said:
I had lived for decades according to the principle that there are rules and socially expected behaviors for men and for women, but then there’s me, and I live outside these restrictions and limitations. I had gotten to a point, though, where things weren’t working for me so well. I decided to divorce my husband and relocate. The consequences of these upheavals devastated my ego and cracked my soul. In response, I began to work with the concept of my life story to date — the story of my past that had brought me to the present moment in time. I evaluated my former image of myself as being supremely confident, fearless, androgynous, and independent, always able to imagine doors where none existed and open them. Although I marveled at this image, I also feared its illusionary allure. The themes of un-nuanced optimism, defiance, and cockiness running through my old story no longer served me.
I wanted a new story in which I could see behind the obvious, rejoice in the lightness of being, accept the inevitability of disappointment, and have the resources to start anew whenever I chose to. I had come to understand that, although I could set my own rules, there could be serious trade-offs to deal with. In my newfound acknowledgment of my vulnerabilities and need for connection and community, I sought to craft a new life story going forward.
This woman needed to look back in order to imagine what her new story might be. Most of us don’t take enough time to reflect on our stories and consciously create new ones. Instead, we get busy, anesthetize ourselves in a variety of ways, deny reality, or continue suffering. When our lives remain unexamined, we can become rigid and inflexible. When external crises arise, and they always do, we may break or collapse because we simply are not ready for change. We don’t have the inner resiliency to bend with, readjust to, or absorb new situations. We don’t know how to alter our story to accommodate these new circumstances.
As you examine your life story, you will begin to see which events you have highlighted and which you have discounted. When you look at different areas of your life, you will observe patterns and interconnections. You will become conscious of the themes running through your life, and aware of your habits and habitual responses.
What Are The Themes of Your Story?
The themes of your story serve as organizing principles for the events you have experienced. As you do shamanic and Jungian work, your story can become informed by wisdom inaccessible to the conscious mind, and you may discover new themes and new connections linking events and actions you have taken. Then you may begin to see your story as mythic — a story influenced by powerful archetypal energies that have always been present in the human experience.
Archetypal energies, such as those of the sage, trickster, eternal child, warrior, and so on, are not intrinsically positive or negative. How you use them depends on your choices, both conscious and unconscious. You may become the underdog who achieves success — but you may also become the brave warrior who forgets the vulnerability of his Achilles’ heel, which leads to tragedy. Shamanic and Jungian practices help you discover and work with archetypal energies effectively so that you may write a more satisfying story for yourself.
The Challenges of Exploring and Changing Your Current Story
You have written your current story in conjunction with Source because like all humans, you don’t have the power to determine every event in your life. But you have more ability than you might realize to change your story to a more desirable one. To write a better story, you must first acknowledge what your story has been until this point, although it can be painful to see your story for what it truly is and be honest about your role in scripting it.
Even if you are able to look boldly at your story and yourself, you may find you are afraid to embrace transformation. Most of us are afraid of change. Perhaps we fear being shunned by society, our families, and our friends if we make different choices and take on new roles. Many of us are caught in stories told to us by others: stories about who we are, who we should be, and how we should live. Often, we decide that we don’t want to continue being the people we have been, doing what we are doing, but we may be attached to our anger, jealousy, or fear and unwilling to release them. We may also resist letting go of possessions, power, or ideologies, or find it difficult to give up our sense of self-importance, habits, wounds, and desires. We wonder, “If I don’t behave in these old ways, who will I be? How will my friends and family treat me? Will I still belong to my group?” The thought of looking honestly at our stories may be too agonizing for us to bear, causing us to live in denial and resist reflection and self-examination.
Our resistance to change binds us to our habits, and we create obstacles to discovering who we are. Often, we can’t effectively express our concerns and resentments because we fear rejection and loss. We become indignant or defensive but do not know why we feel that way.
Identifying the Patterns in Your Life
As you contemplate the patterns in your life, you will start to understand that by making a decision to alter your health habits, you may end up altering your relationship, work, and emotional habits. You might begin to eat better, which will help you to be less depressed, more confident, and ultimately, more assertive with your romantic partners and coworkers. Changes you make in one part of your story will affect other parts.
Liberated from your old feelings and ways of operating, you may also find that your desires, goals, and priorities change. It becomes easier to find your courage, discard what is no longer working, and establish new habits because you have brought in the energy of transformation and learned to work with it. Emotional neediness falls away and confidence takes its place as you begin to trust in the process of transformation. You recognize that you are the storyteller of your life and eagerly take up your pen to script a new and more satisfying tale.
What Would You Like To Change About Your Story?
What would you like to change about your story? What aspects of your story make you unhappy, uncomfortable, or even ashamed? Most people wish to change their circumstances in some way. Perhaps you want to eat differently, exercise more, or find ways to reduce stress. You might want to be less moody, anxious, depressed, angry, or obsessive. You might seek less conflict, more pleasantness, more connectedness, and more authenticity in your relationships. You might want to change how you feel about certain people or situations. You might hope to make more money, have a greater sense of security, and find more enjoyment. You might desire to be of service in the world and to experience your spirituality more fully.
Changing external circumstances is not easy, however. We’ve all seen the futility of New Year’s resolutions. It’s difficult to trust that we can transform, but we can. However, to change our stories, we must change. We must alter our perceptions and make conscious decisions about how to frame the events of our lives. Are we victims of bad luck, or underdogs who persevere and triumph? Are we unsuccessful wanderers, or free-spirited explorers and adventurers? Does the past dictate the future, or do we truly have the power to envision a new role and story for ourselves and bring it into manifestation with the help of Source?
It's Up To You to Change Your Story
Years ago, I did a research project looking at factors that affected outcomes in psychotherapy. Among other things, I found that those who expected the therapist to heal them had less successful outcomes than those who expected the therapist to guide them in healing themselves. Ultimately, the onus is on you to change your individual story, even though you may be availing yourself of other spiritual, psychological, and medical help. No shaman or psychologist can change your story for you.
All of us need to learn to ask for help when we can no longer cope by ourselves. But you have a choice: Would you rather ask others to fix you and take care of you, or ask them to help you discover and develop ways to take care of yourself so you can become independent once again? The latter is far more empowering.
* subtitles by InnerSelf
©2014 by Carl Greer. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Findhorn Press. www.findhornpress.com.
About the Author
Carl Greer PhD, PsyD is a practicing clinical psychologist, Jungian analyst, and shamanic practitioner. After focusing on business for many years, he earned a doctorate in clinical psychology, and then became a Jungian analyst. The shamanic work he does is drawn from a blend of North American and South American indigenous trainings and is influenced by Jungian analytic psychology. He has trained with Peruvian shamans and through Dr. Alberto Villoldo's Healing the Light Body School, where he has been on staff. He has worked with shamans in South America, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ethiopia, and Outer Mongolia. Carl Greer is involved in various businesses and philanthropies, teaches at the Jung Institute in Chicago, is on the staff of the Lorene Replogle Counseling Center, and holds workshops on shamanic topics.
Watch a video: Death and Dying with Carl Greer (Part 1 of 2)